“There are quiet places also in the mind,” he said, meditatively. “But we build bandstand and factories on them. Deliberately—to put a stop to the quietness. We don’t like the quietness. All the thoughts, all the preoccupation in my head—round and round continually.” He made a circular motion with his hands. “And the jazz bands, the music hall songs, the boys shouting the news. What’s it all for? To put an end to the quiet, to break it up and disperse it, to pretend at any cost it isn’t there. Ah, but it is, it is there, in spite of everything, at the back of everything. Lying awake at night, sometimes—not restlessly, but serenely, waiting for sleep—the quiet re-establishes itself, piece by piece; all the broken bits, all the fragments of it we’ve been so busily dispersing all day long. It re-establishes itself, an inward quiet, like this outward quiet of grass and trees. It fills one, it grows –a crystal quiet, a growing expanding crystal. It grows, it becomes more perfect; it is beautiful and terrifying, yes, terrifying, as well as beautiful. For one’s alone in the crystal and there’s no support from outside, there’s nothing external and important, nothing external and trivial to pull oneself up by or to stand up, superiorly, contemptuously, so that one can look down. There’s nothing to laugh at or feel enthusiastic about. But the quiet grows and grows. Beautifully and unbearably. And at last you are conscious of something approaching; it is almost a faint sound of footsteps. Something inexpressibly lovely and wonderful advances through the crystal, nearer, nearer. And oh, inexpressibly terrifying. For if it were to touch you, if it were to seize and engulf you, you’d die; all the regular habitual, daily part of you would die. There would be and end of bandstands and whizzing factories, and one would have to begin living arduously in the quiet, arduously n some strange unheard-of manner. Nearer, nearer come the steps; but one can’t face the advancing thing. One daren’t. It’s too terrifying; it’s too painful to die. Quickly, before it is too late, start the factory wheels, bang the drum, blow up the saxophone. Think of the women you’d like to sleep with, the schemes for making money, the gossip about your friends, the last outrage of the politicians. Anything for a diversion. Break the silence, smash the crystal to pieces. There, it lies in bits; it is easily broken, hard to build up and easy to break. And the steps? Ah, those have taken themselves off, double quick. Double quick, they were gone at the flawing of the crystal. And by this time the lovely and terrifying thing is three infinities away, at least. And you lie tranquilly on your bed, thinking of what you’d do if you had ten thousand pounds and of all the fornications you’ll never commit.” – Aldous Huxley
I want to emphasize on the violence involved in the warrior approach that most survivor tales take on, after the death of a loved one, loss, or a break up. There is often implied aggression in the survivor tales we see being portrayed time and again in the movies, songs and other popular media. In a sort of Bildungsroman, the protagonist must go through the break up/loss to come out with a cleaner character, he/she needs to take on an approach of that of a warrior where he/she is taking charge and control of his/her life. It is because our society discourages failure. The helplessness we so often seek to combat catches up with us in the end. The aggression or the hatred stemming from the break up is often channelized into a hardened personality, one that of a “tough” individual who goes about life in an almost superhero way. The portrayal of these characters, specially females, overly aggressive “radical” feminists shows the assertion of anger at a very core level; an escapist attitude from the ultimate helplessness that we all want to avoid. We don’t like being helpless, we want to be bigger than our problems, we want to tackle life, and we want to be in charge. All this war terminology creates an armor that not only hardens, but also defeats the individual. At a core level, our soul is being crushed.
The true essence of the soul is not that of enmity, struggle or combat, but that of a relaxed surrender to the realization that we are all powerless in this grand orchestra of life. It is due to my continued practice of meditation that disallows any hardening; I have come to realize that struggle is not the way to achieve personal growth and change. That we do not own the powers to overcome every situation, that things happen in their own time, that love does not disappear easily despite a bad break up, and that we will make mistakes repeatedly. The marginalization of failure, of reality is one problem that must not be undermined. You are very likely to wake up with an aching heart or worse still, a sleepless night tomorrow. You will probably be quicker in doling out “I love yous” to your lovers than to your parents. You might skip a day in your exercise regime. Life is not always rosy and successful. We are creatures of comfort and ease and are highly unlikely to go through a character arc overnight. Sitting with failure is hard, when all you want to do is to rip out someone’s head or maybe even yours. It is harder to admit that you are powerless. But it is only through surrender to this failure that we learn to recognize the true strength in ourselves and emerge as the compassionate, loving, softhearted beings that we really are.
Being alone has a very negative connotation to it. Till recently, I viewed being alone as something lonely, something scary. I was out alone in the world, with no one to turn to, with no one to guide me. What I didn’t realize what that for the first time in my life, I had no one making decisions for me. I was free to craft my own circumstances, my own life, and my own identity. I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. This got me thinking and I realized we fear change, we fear this aloneness, when our supports are withdrawn. We feel crippled. We no longer have our supports enslaving us; we are free. We resist freedom not enslavement. Enslavement is comfortable, it is something we know. It has the scent of familiarity.
I was talking to a friend about the difficult and challenging experience of living abroad and he told me, “I understand you’re lonely there. I wouldn’t be able to live there. I surrounded by people here, yet I feel lonely. I guess I am addicted to the loneliness among people I know.” This showed me we are weak, vulnerable creatures willing to cling to the first semblance of enslavement because the new scares us. It holds no promises. It shines in the bleak horizon of uncertainty. We fear the new, we fear new creation. We had rather cling to the old than build something new.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson
I looked outside to the gentle but steady falling of snow, the paper snowflakes pasted on the window and the icicles that hung from the eves. The world outside was white; land, grass, house all covered in snow. It was a white country. Its exquisite beauty stared out at me from every nook and cranny. But it failed to pierce my heart. It failed to touch my soul. The more I tried to pierce the honey-dewed arrow of beauty into my heart, the more I failed. It was as if my heart had barriers built against it. I knew this wasn’t true. I was a product of culture and conditioning shaped my beliefs. It was unsettling to know that conditioning shaped even the deepest intuitive part of me. It was unsettling to know that I was not as important as I thought. I didn’t know anything here, the places or the people. I was lonely here. I was lonely back home too. I was addicted to the loneliness among people I know.
I feel your love surrounding me like a blanket, keeping me warm. Hold me close, lover; for when the wind blows your blanket away, I do not wish to face my wounds that you keep so lovingly hidden.
I am flawed, lover. Terribly and terrifyingly. In moments of despair I see my ugliness, my extraordinary ordinariness and my darkness and I run. I run for life. I do not wish to see these monsters. I want to be hidden safe and sound in the blanket of your warmth, your touch, your taste and your smell.
Yet, despite the love, I tremble. From beneath my toes to the tip of my fingers, I feel fear, gripping and raw, tunneling into my heart. I see demons, terrible, dark and menacing, threatening to kill.
And I give in.
There is only so much time before my fault lines show again and divide the ground on which you and I stand. There is only so much time before I shiver, holding your blanket close one last time. There is only so much time before I can take solace in three words that you so incessantly utter every day and every night. There is only so much time before the trembling begins again.
I need to let go of your blanket lover. I must go and spiral into the incoherence of my tunnel.
And so I have.
I have held my misery and let it rain stones till I sat helpless and vacant, with tears as my only companions. I have let pain claw into the crevices of my being, stretching me apart and miraculously back together again. I have been touched by the center of my sorrow in the naked solitude of the night and have found myself still alive, breathing and clutching at the pouch of my heart.
In the midst of it all, I can feel a noise: a gentle knitting, a weaving of threads that dissolve and mold into each other, a soft whispering, a reminder, that joy stands at the threshold of my door. I feel the threads taking a form, a form so utterly unique that I can call it mine.
I am building my blanket, lover. I am learning to walk. I am learning to see the beauty in your face, in your presence, in your voice and in your being. Above all that, I am learning to see the beauty in me.
Stand at your window. Nonchalantly notice the greenness of the tree leaves and observe your windowsill. Let your eyes wander till they settle on a speckled red flower. Observe its yellow markings and lose yourself in marvel. Feel the stillness surrounding the trees surround you and hold it in your hands. Look at it- its overwhelming presence, its nauseating fear, its piercing clarity- feel the gentle thud of your heartbeat pounding against your chest in synchronicity with the trees’ movements. Realize that the trees breathe too. Feel connected.
Hold a rabbit in your hand. Feel its heartbeat running a million miles a minute, notice the gaping terror in its eyes, feel its pulsating clock reverberating with the rush of your veins and realize you hold life.
Fight with your mother. Know that the fear in her eyes brings tears in yours and turn away. Become numb, stoic and insensitive. Clench your insides and draw yourself into a shell. Bend over and internally release the silent conflicts. Let them play havoc in your heart. Feel the anger shaking within making no effort to release without.
Hug a lover. Feel the invitation of his heart stretch itself wide enough to make room for you and feel welcomed. Feel the throbbing vulnerability of his being as he kisses you. Feel loved.
Lie awake at night. Watch your heart, twisted, clenched, and dirty, suspended in mid air and hear its blaring conflict. Ponder over your miseries and your need for fervid self annihilation and know that you are gloriously, infuriatingly and inevitably human.
I’m failing. Miserably and inconsolably.
I look into the open fields and I see the vast blue skies spanning miles and miles across. The empty stretch of grassland does no good as scorned and humbled I walk, across the lonely roads.
Ten miles before and ten miles after, there isn’t a soul in sight.
I look towards the scattered robins and try to feel the life energy pulsating through them. I can’t.
I walk across the curb and I see the moss growing out of the half frozen sewage.
My hands start numbing and my skin prickles with the gradual chill of wind. I push my hands inside my pockets for warmth. I feel cold.
I look around once again. I am in an alien land, with alien houses, alien people and alien birds. There is something highly unsettling about this unfamiliarity. Something almost terrifying about not knowing, not being able to find my way around. I guess maybe I am the alien here.
I wonder if everyone around feels the same way. I stare at the people in cars passing by.
I pick up a pine cone on the way home. I cross the pedestrian bridge and see the sun shining through the winter clouds.
My silhouette reflects with the trees swaying along the river bank. I watch the beaver and ducks waddling across the pool without a worry in mind. I wonder if I could be like that and try to push out all thoughts from my mind.
I want to forget myself- the accumulated knowledge, the quest for love and self inquiry, the meaning of god and everything else. I want to drop all books- spiritual and non spiritual and delve into the world of fantasy and irrationality. I want to hide my vulnerability in the silence of the night and cry away in isolation as I seek emotional validation. I want to lose this endless battle of learning and unlearning. I want sweet repose.
I want to forget all dimensions of space. I want to erase time- past and future and be in the now. If you asked me what the now meant, I would probably not know. And I would know it too. But I don’t want to know anymore. I am tired of reasoning and rationalizing. I want to forget what it is to be alive. I want to forget the touch, tastes and sounds of the world. I want to lose love, approval, acceptance and desire. I want to kill passion and keep moving in this endless flow of existence.
If you were to be driving down a long winding road, you would find me hidden in the crevice of a rock, in a speck of dust. I want to be a speck of dust. I want to erase myself. Be nothing, feel nothing and know nothing.I want to be a robot- unaffected by emotions, events and thoughts. I want to live a life of utter ignorance. I want to drop this jaded skin. I want unconsciousness and suspension in this limbo- formless, thoughtless, nameless…
I am the most tired woman in the world. I am tired when I get up. Life requires an effort I cannot make. Please give me that heavy book. I need to put something heavy like that on top of my head. I have to place my feet under the pillows always, so as to be able to stay on earth. Otherwise I feel myself going away, going away at a tremendous speed, on account of my lightness. I know that I am dead. As soon as I utter a phrase my sincerity dies, becomes a lie whose coldness chills me. Don’t say anything, because I see that you understand me, and I am afraid of your understanding. I have such a fear of finding another like myself, and such a desire to find one! I am so utterly lonely, but I also have such a fear that my isolation be broken through, and I no longer be the head and ruler of my universe. I am in great terror of your understanding by which you penetrate into my world; and then I stand revealed and I have to share my kingdom with you.
― Anaïs Nin
If you were looking for God, I would tell you to observe the water droplets spewing out of your shower- their rainbow edges as they blur into nothingness, their mirror like façade and their shimmers as they hit the ground before shattering into a million diamonds.
If you were looking for God, I would ask you to look long enough into the glassy stare of another’s eyes till it begins to melt away to reveal a plethora of experiences and joy. I would tell you to look deeper and discover your own criterion of truth and beauty while the moments continue to transpire into eons and you know real human connection.
If you were looking for God, I would tell you to lie beneath the stars on a chilly night, wine glass in hand, and feel the pungent liquid trickling down and gently warming your insides. I would ask you to feel the warmth emanating from your rib cage as your eyes give way to the black void sucking you into oblivion.
If you were looking for God, I would take you to a temple and dare you to lose yourself in the palpable silence hanging ghoul like in the crevices before you groped among the idols enshrining the sanctum. And as you close your eyes in reverent prayer, I would take your hand and walk you home. I would ask you to see the sun rays glistening through the stained glass painting on my window, make you smell the woody aroma of the books and their pages lining my shelf and hand you a cup of coffee. I would mutter something about the ultimate complexity and the stupidity of labeling God as a noun and walk away. And if on the next day, you were still looking for God, I would embrace you warmly and entwine my fingers in yours to continue this search with you.
My eyes lose focus as I recollect the previous night. The half eaten chocolate dangles from my sticky fingers as I mull over words that could possibly inch towards the perfection of the night.
I entered the room, my feet falling in step with the music. The thumps of the steady beat coursed through my body as soon as I set foot on the floor. Like a stimulus coursing through my veins, it flowed through my form reaching the tips of my toes and fingers. The convulsions began. Unclenching my fists, I gave way to the steady rhythm as it coursed through my hands.
I was a witnessing entity…a spirit… going through the motions of what was to be one of the most enriching and liberating experiences of my life. At the same time, I was a form, an experience, a twirl that was slowly losing sight as the edges blurred little by little into nothingness.
People milled in. The lights dimmed. Much like my consciousness, they flashed on and off. I phased in and out of the multitude of smells, sounds and feels, as the floor vibrated with the ever increasing footfalls and the rhythmic thuds of the tunes.
The gradual upbeat of the bass sent my body into frenzy of its own. Like a slow moving missile, the magic took over, invading my senses and soul. My eyes rolled upwards as I raised my hands over my head. In that one moment of dancing glory, I felt alive. The people, the music, the lights, the floor, the sights, the smells gave way to my being as I dissolved, molecule by molecule, into the whole. I was there and not there. I was one and nothing at all. I was a flame, burning alive and in that one moment of nothingness, I was the dancer and the dance.